Situations I am powerless to change make me crazy. Like most “control freaks” (my children’s all-too-accurate accusation), I’m okay with life problems that are fixable; tell me the only way to solve X is to climb mountain Y, and I’ll pull on my hiking boots. But the problems that most frequently make their way onto this blog are of a different order.
I think I have a lot of company among the ordinary citizens of this country and world. Unlike the self-styled revolutionaries on the radical Right, who far too often think possession of an AR 15 makes them powerful, we see ourselves as well-meaning individuals with very limited abilities to effect social or political change–as small cogs in the machineries of our respective societies.
Some individuals, however, do exercise disproportionate power–and the ways in which they do so illuminate an important imperative– the need to dismantle global oligarchies. For every “nice” billionaire whose philanthropies the powerless applaud and encourage, a darker mogul is making the world a much worse place.
Rupert Murdock is a prime example. A while back, an essay by Thom Hartmann in Common Dreams enumerated the multiple ways in which Murdock has worked to destroy democracy worldwide. Here’s the lede:
What country in its right mind would allow a foreign entity to come into their country, set up a major propaganda operation, and then use it to so polarize that nation that its very government suffers a violent assault and its democracy finds itself at a crossroads?
Apparently, the United States. And we’re not the first, according to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Writing for The Sydney Morning Herald (the Australian equivalent of The New York Times) Rudd called Rupert Murdoch and his rightwing news operations “the greatest cancer on the Australian democracy.”
“The uncomfortable truth is,” Rudd wrote, “since the coup of June 2010, Australian politics has become vicious, toxic and unstable. The core question is why?”
Hartmann points out that Murdoch’s empire isn’t really a news organization–that it most resembles and operates as a political party, “acting in pursuit of clearly defined commercial interests, in addition to his far-right ideological world view.”
Brexit–which is currently wreaking economic havoc in the UK–would never have passed without the propaganda promulgated by the newspapers and media owned by Murdock in that country.
In the U.S., Fox News has from its inception been the political echo chamber of the far Right. It’s unlikely that the GOP’s devolution into the Trump party would have occurred without Fox’s deliberate campaigns of misinformation and propaganda.
Murdoch’s positions aren’t at all ambiguous, Rudd noted. They’re simply pro-billionaire/pro-oligarch and thus, by extension, anti-democracy.
“In Australia, as in America,” he wrote, “Murdoch has campaigned for decades in support of tax cuts for the wealthy, killing action on climate change and destroying anything approximating multiculturalism.
“Given Murdoch’s impact on the future of our democracy,” Rudd added, “it’s time to revisit it.”
Hartmann quotes Steve Schmidt, former advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain, and now a “Never Trumper”:
“Rupert Murdoch’s lie machine is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, the poisoning of our democracy and the stoking of a cold civil war. There has never been anything like it and it is beyond terrible for the country. Bar none, Rupert Murdoch is the worst and most dangerous immigrant to ever arrive on American soil. There are no words for the awfulness of his cancerous network.”
What Hartmann’s essay does well is illuminate the danger oligarchies pose to the planet and those of us who live on it. When a few people control the overwhelming majority of wealth and power in a society, it is suicidal to simply hope for their benevolence.
What Hartmann’s essay fails to do is offer a remedy–and that brings me back to my opening admission. What do we do–what can we do– about the cancer of Fox “News” and its clones? Past comments have stressed the importance of education in critical thinking, and that is surely part of the long-term answer.
If we make it to the long term.
We need to cut the oligarchy off at its knees sooner rather than later–and that will require a significant increase in tax rates for the oligarchs, along with an international effort to eradicate the various tax havens that allow these predators to hide their assets.
That won’t happen in the U.S. until the mindless cult that was once a political party is resoundingly rejected. At this point, our overriding need is to defeat the GOP monster that Murdock’s excessive power has created and maintained.
All individuals can do is work to get out the vote. It will have to be enough.